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Web-Crawling Program Spots Disease Outbreaks

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the ebola-ebola-ebola-ebola-ebola-dropsy dept.

Medicine 52

no1home writes "There is a story at Discovery Channel's site about a new utility for mapping disease. The premise is to have bots crawl the web looking for stories about disease outbreaks and log them onto a map. '"We were originally thinking about how we could expand disease surveillance and pick up outbreaks earlier than traditional methods," said John Brownstein of Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston, who created HealthMap in September of 2006 with Clark Friefeld, a software developer at Harvard Medical School.' But then it was noticed by Google.org and has since grown into its own website, HealthMap Global disease alert map, and claims to be able to identify 95% of all disease outbreaks, some of them before WHO or CDC."

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Great! (3, Funny)

Apple Acolyte (517892) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259731)

Now all the hypochondriac hyper-nerds have another reason to sit home on their computers, cloistered from the outside world. :-)

Low on the Useful Meter (2, Informative)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 6 years ago | (#24260441)

Well, it's not really a "map of disease"
breakouts. In fact the map part is rather just
a shiny pony?

A list could have done just the same amount
of good. Since for the most part each area has
one pushpin that just sums up the area.
[FWIW, I only looked at US pins.]

I was expecting a cluster map, like you see on...
Wunderground Wundermaps [wunderground.com]

or on...
http://www.housingmaps.com/ [housingmaps.com]

At least if it was a cluster map I could
look at an area and think, "I sure as heck
ain't traveling there for work this week."

I think if public interaction would be
allowed, that would turn up the dial to
a more 'fine' resolution rather than the
grainy "Cryptosporidium in local pools"
that I already know about cause I read
the local paper. Or that the measles
outbreak is almost contained. I can get
that from the 10pm news.

That further detracts from the usefulness
of this website as it stands, because I
doubt someone that reads the news less
than I do, would be more likely to go to
a website and search what new diseases
popped up this week. [All hypochondriacs
aside]

It's a good seed/foundation as long as
they have the financial stamina to keep
it going.

-AI

Emergency and Disaster Information Service (2, Informative)

FeebleOldMan (1089749) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261575)

At least if it was a cluster map I could look at an area and think, "I sure as heck ain't traveling there for work this week.

On a global scale, check out the RSOE EDIS [hisz.rsoe.hu] (Emergency and Disaster Information Service).

It aggregates all sorts of disasters, from short-time events such as automobile accidents, and current tropical storms, to longer term ones, such as epidemics and forest fires.

Re:___ condriac ___nerds (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261091)

Is this the opposite of the "Manly Joe" who never lets on that he is sick and takes computer lessons from the Amish?

Somewhere in Madagascar.. (1, Informative)

Carbon016 (1129067) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259757)

CLOSE THE PORTS [quartertothree.com]

Re:Somewhere in Madagascar.. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24259793)

How about a bot that spots new memes by checking Wikipedia articles for repeated vandalism and sudden article protection.

Catch the video (4, Informative)

Joe Decker (3806) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259783)

Fascinating TED Talk [ted.com] on a similar (the same?) project? As I recall, some of video was a bit unpleasant to watch, but (IMHO) very worthwhile.

I still think (1, Interesting)

drDugan (219551) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259791)

a facebook or other social app for people to self report symptoms is a great idea that no one has uilt yet. one could even "out" symptoms of their friends or speculate which friends made them sick. lots of issues with it, but a different data source for inf disease folks, even if the data was not completely accurate, would be helpful in predictions.

too busy to do it myself now...

Just what the insurance companies need (2, Insightful)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259841)

> one could even "out" symptoms of their friends or speculate which friends made them sick. lots of issues with it, but a different data source for inf disease folks, even if the data was not completely accurate, would be helpful in predictions.

Yeah, right, just what we need, an inaccurate resource for the insurance companies to data-mine. Your premium has now increased by a factor of 5, just because someone with your name (Mike Smith) allegedly made someone else sick. Great.

No thanks.

Re:I still think (3, Funny)

dynchaw (1188279) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259863)

Today
Jenny Smith gave you the clap! Give her measles? 3:56pm

Re:I still think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24260417)

Gotta get'em all, uh ?

Re:I still think (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24259887)

Shh! You tryin' to put all them hard workin' doctors out on the street? Think of the economy! ... oh wait...

Re:I still think (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24259979)

Better still, look at what symptoms people are searching for. Sure, you'll get a little noise every time a repeat of "House" is aired. However, when google gets systemic swaths of "butt bleeding" , "grey vomit" and "ocular hemorrhoids", bad things might be coming.

Oh, I Know! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24259865)

Let's apply this system to detecting suspected election fraud across the US! Have you seen a CEO personally applying firmware patches to voting machines? Put a pin on the map! You have evidence that someone's vote has been bought? Put a pin on the map! Soon we will know which states' votes can be trusted and which ones can't.

On the other hand, perhaps we should apply pins in cases when we see something that is actually GOOD in politics. Surely this would require far fewer pins?

This thing has one flaw (4, Insightful)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259893)

as far as I can make out. It relies heavily on human reporting. And sometimes it takes a while for news on disease outbreaks to make the news.

Unless there is some way to report directly TO this crawler, I seriously doubt the claim that a web crawler can know of outbreaks before the WHO does.

hmm... I just referenced The Who - a band...

Re:This thing has one flaw (1)

danwat1234 (942579) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259963)

Band *!synonym;
*!synonym=Band.TheWho.BandTitle;



//wait a second..

Re:This thing has one flaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24260335)

@"(...) I seriously doubt the claim that a web crawler can know of outbreaks before the WHO does."

So you should watch TED video mentioned above . For example in Iran, WHO was slower than this initiative.

Re:This thing has one flaw (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#24260839)

You are indeed correct.

I forgot one thing: there is more to news than the mainstream media.

A local blog could contain information about an outbreak of disease days before the WHO (again with the band reference) or CNN/BBC finds it advertising revenue generating worthy.

Neat (2, Interesting)

symes (835608) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259923)

This is neat - although how useful it is I don't know... It'll be pretty obvious that communitites not tied to the www 24/7 will be sorely under-represented. Also, the disease categories seem a bit narrow - it would be cool to have stuff like murder, violence and alcohol related-disease in there. Ok, not transmissible diseases in their own right but they still have some pretty profound health-related consequences.

Re:Neat (3, Insightful)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259981)

"It'll be pretty obvious that communitites not tied to the www 24/7 will be sorely under-represented."

And those are the communities which have the highest outbreaks of disease... So it seems pretty pointless to me.

Usefulness? (4, Insightful)

Ender_Wiggin (180793) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259943)

The CDC, and local and state health departments all have a list of "reportable" diseases. (Things from TB to gonnorhea to ebola to SARS) If a doctor encounters them, they are supposed to notify the health authorities. That is for biostatistics and epidemiology purposes.

If they have to look these cases up in the news instead of getting notified by hospitals and clinics, then the system is in a really bad shape.

Re:Usefulness? (2, Insightful)

symes (835608) | more than 6 years ago | (#24260061)

If they have to look these cases up in the news instead of getting notified by hospitals and clinics, then the system is in a really bad shape.

Very true - but might there be value in understanding the public's awareness of disease? One thing that this map might measure is a communitites awareness of transmissible disease and awareness *should* lead to protective behaviour. So if there's a mismatch between regular epidemiological stats and this map then perhaps public health bods should going in there telling people to wear condoms, wash their hands, etc.

Re:Usefulness? (2, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#24260851)

The CDC, and local and state health departments all have a list of "reportable" diseases. (Things from TB to gonnorhea to ebola to SARS) If a doctor encounters them, they are supposed to notify the health authorities. That is for biostatistics and epidemiology purposes.

What about non-reportable diseases? German Measles, Chicken Pox, and many others are not reportable, and most people wouldn't even bother going to the doctor if their kids came down with them (or is that not the case anymore? seems like everyone goes running to the doctor at the slightest hint of being unwell these days...)

If the local news picked up on the latest round of Chicken Pox then this program might be able to pick up on it.

I wonder if this Slashdot article is being reported on right now - google seems incredibly quick these days!

What do they expect from this.. (4, Interesting)

bm_luethke (253362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259955)

What the designers expect from this will highly color my opinion on it. The article linked isn't exactly clear on this.

Do you want to track and try and predict disease breakouts in first world areas then probably decent, track world wide stuff then terrible. Outside of the obvious (self reporting) there is the whole issue of how much of the world is on the internet? While much of the first and even quite a bit of the second world countries are on the vast majority of the population doesn't have computers, let alone internet access.

I can easily see many many great uses for this and I expect all of them to be explored at some point - I can also clearly see many not so great uses and I fully expect them to be used too. As the old saying goes, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

In fact we can already see the maps being posted and used by people who have little to no understanding (if we are generous, I'm sure some understand and use them to further their own aims) to say things the data *can not say* and it isn't even mainstream yet. *sigh* It's like many things we have today - the greater amount of good it can do the greater amount of abuse one can use it for too.

Re:What do they expect from this.. (1)

somnolent49 (1254770) | more than 6 years ago | (#24271165)

Just because a doctor doesn't live in the first world, doesn't mean he's somehow incapable of reporting it.

More to the point, internet based tracking has already proven it's worth in the SARS outbreak. The first clusters of what came to be known as SARS cases were located by GPHIN, and reported to the WHO, who didn't themselves issue a report on SARS for weeks.

What's needed now is development of this infrastructure, with doctor's everywhere in the world reporting infectious diseases, web crawlers sifting through the incredible new information networks which are springing up, and the ability to immediately inform the WHO and the governments of affected countries of the outbreaks. Pandemics follow exponential growth, so catching it a week or two earlier could make the difference between relatively small, contained outbreaks, and global catastrophe.

As to your point about third world countries not having internet access, it's completely false. People may not have computers in their households, or even in their villages, but most significant population centers have cheap internet access, and that penetration is only going to increase.

With the increase in globalization and travel, the earth is in greater danger of major pandemic than ever, and the damage would be absolutely catastrophic to the economy, let alone the hundreds of millions who would die. Early reporting is our only defense against that threat, and the internet is the greatest tool for the dissemination of information the world has ever seen. Let's take advantage of it.

I never would have guessed (1)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259961)

Apparently news reporting is still good for something. I never would have guessed.

Missing important diseases... (2, Funny)

commlinx (1068272) | more than 6 years ago | (#24259969)

I was looking forward to viewing the "erectile dysfunction" map based on viagra posts.

In Iraq (0, Offtopic)

Venik (915777) | more than 6 years ago | (#24260019)

Seems that the only outbreak in Iraq is rabies. Figures. Must be Al Qaeda.

Re:In Iraq (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24260677)

Seems that the only outbreak in Iraq is rabies. Figures. Must be Al Qaeda.

Nope, the only truly 'rabid' things in Iraq are you Bloody Americans..

wasted effort (2, Interesting)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#24260069)

pathology labs already have a list of reportable diseases that the CDC monitor (you know, their job).

why would anyone rely on reports from the media on what outbreaks are going around when you have trained professionals with lab equipment diagnosing these illnesses to begin with?

Depends on your purpose (1)

khchung (462899) | more than 6 years ago | (#24260655)

If your purpose is to scientifically track and deal with real diseases, reporting from the lab is useful.

If your purpose is to dig up scare stories as headlines to sell newspapers/websites/etc, the which ever way digs up more scare stories (regardless of being true or not) is useful.

machine (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24260101)

> > Anyone familiar with the idea of trying to describe a machine the way
> > it works?
> > like where it's being a machine working the way of having a loop with
> > the problem of being in
> > the middle and then to the outside as how the machine can move? so
> > like if you were to make it a machine
> > that does math the way it works it has machine parts that actually
> > move like the way the calculation is done?
> > so it moves like if this were to try and move as a real machine:
> > for (i = 0; i > if (i == 3) next;
> > };
> > so as a real machine though, that works the way that would have to as
> > a machine? a machine that can't be anything really working like gears
> > because of how to be in the middle of the loop is to go outside but
> > sometimes not is a problem the way something has to move.
> > so if that's to look like a real machine, it's not a machine that
> > turns around and around mechanically though, because in the middle is
> > back to the beginning. but sometimes through and back around. But it
> > actually has to move like a real machine though.
> > I think I know a way there is to describe a machine that works this
> > way...
> > say on a checkers board you have checker pieces, and say each checker
> > piece is paired with another.
> > now all checker pieces are pairs.
> > the way said, try to make one piece able to move... but you have to
> > move the other it's a pair with at the same time.
> > the board is full, there's no free spaces to move to.
> > so to make a piece move with it's paired piece, find where it can go
> > where there's another pair that can move, that pair can move where
> > another pair can move, and so on... where the last pair to move goes
> > where the first pair left.
> > each time you move a pair, they are not the same pair anymore once
> > they've moved, each of the pair is now a pair with the piece that
> > left
> > where they went to make a new pair of them. this is key in figuring
> > out the only way it can work so a piece can move at all.
> > so knowing no first move you can make because there isn't any
> > specific
> > move to know, find the pair to be able to move the way where they
> > move
> > to another pair where each of the pair is now another pair with the
> > one they move to, they move to a pair that's together. now first pair
> > to move to another pair, is now not the same pair, but each a pair
> > with each of the other pair.
> > so move and do that, but at the same time when you get a piece of the
> > first pair where it goes and the other pair moved, as a new pair now
> > it can't stay there because it has to move again because of how at
> > the
> > same time something is making the other of the pair move. right?
> > maybe
> > that part is hard to see. It's the only way to figure it can move in
> > any way at all.
> > so it's like the last move has to be known before the first move can
> > be made, because the first move that can be made is where something
> > can move next, but what can move next is what carries on to the last
> > move that can move where the first pair moved from. it's a recursive
> > type of problem to figure out how to move a pair.
> > where a pair can move is where it goes to another pair that at the
> > same time is moving away making an occupancy, but when you get there
> > and you're a new pair with the piece that moves from where you get
> > to,
> > it's not to think staying can work because now something needs the
> > pair you are now to move.
> > it's like so where you can never have it so you stop moving until all
> > the move is complete. but nowhere in the middle, or at first or last,
> > can you know how to make it work to move because the beginning is
> > like
> > knowing the end of how to move.
> > what's interesting though is how pairs that figure themselves to be
> > able to move are not all the pairs but some, but that some other
> > pairs
> > that figure out a way to move are the same pairs as others that
> > figure
> > out another way.
> > and each time a pair makes a move it's all the way to where the place
> > they leave has something come, but that had to be before you can move
> > in the first place in idea of the problem it is because that's where
> > something can move to finally get around to the last move where you
> > leave, but leave where you can because you find what comes where you
> > leave at first. each time a pair is moved depending on how moving
> > pairs are said together is to reorganize how pairs are together, but
> > to keep moving the same pairs is to find the same place they were in
> > to begin with but alot of other ways too depending on which of the
> > pairs together you try to move, if you say the pairs together are the
> > pairs that given one pair are the ones that move at the same time
> > too.
> > isn't it fair to call how they behave any machine?
> > there's a few things you can say like given how they're arranged pick
> > a few pairs for how they're organized and see how every way you can
> > move them makes a few more pairs reorganized for how you move them?
> > it's like pairs can setup in any way where for any way they are
> > organized is for any way other pairs are organized.
> > it's like saying for every combination of a number, there's another
> > combination but not linear association.
> > so don't they describe any machine there can be ? like don't they
> > describe working with a behavior that can be how any possible machine
> > works?
> > you can see how it looks like a machine when you take a pair and
> > figure how it can be moved, like say one moves, but it goes where
> > something else moves, and it moves where something else moves, but
> > then something moves to where the first one left. so say just one of
> > these that work around to move, but then say all that do. say all
> > together like the ones that move around in a way but the others that
> > move around in a way, you can see importantly enough for how it's a
> > machine that they use the same pairs starting from somewhere else to
> > move as how you can move somewhere else.
> > isn't that any machine there can be? I mean like a functional machine
> > to work like gears but not like gears where you have to be in the
> > middle of it working to be on the outside then the otherside again.
> > Like if you thought of code working as a real machine doing what a
> > 'for loop' does, it has to be a machine that is in the middle of the
> > 'for loop' to be to the beginning again, but then again through it
> > but
> > not to the beginning but through the end.
> > But as a machine that actually moves the way this would have to?
> > Don't moving pairs represent any machine there can be?
> > See how moving pairs rearrange each time? but the way others do will
> > rearrange another way if they use the same pairs? but see how to
> > rearrange those ones and the other ones again make difference of how?
> > See moving pairs that move together as part of the machine where for a
> > condition one way is for a condition another way like they say
> > together a condition that matters together. Like if part of the
> > machine is one way then another part of the machine is another way,
> > together matters like to change one part is to change the other part.
> > But then pairs that move together another way are another part like
> > they use the same pairs, because it's a part of the machine together
> > with another part. But see how they're eachother? like when one part
> > together moves, other part together has to move another way now?
> > See them though the way you put together pairs that move with others
> > that can move the way they can move, like one moves the other to move
> > the other. but then others that do that do that to another that works
> > it's own way. see it though the way it's a machine that can work like
> > a machine can for what it is to work that way, because it's to see
> > what a loop has to be for example.
> > I find something special about how if you move a pair and look at it
> > as a machine again, there's something to notice.

> see how it's a machine though, like for a pair that can move for
> every
> way it can move, is for another pair to move for every way it can
> move... pairs are like that with eachother.. so it's like a machine
> part that moved but now the whole machine is with part moved where
> the
> pair moved is it's own part of the machine and part of other parts of
> the machine to say they moved too.

> so see how... draw it, draw pairs like on a checkers board but say
> for
> each piece that it moves, like figure out how it would move if it
> were
> to be moved and just say that piece moves to another piece, and
> another piece moves to another. say where it gets back to the
> beginning... but then say all pairs like this, and then say it all
> together what shows a machine that can work. but then make a pair
> moved, and draw again the machine. see what happened? because part of
> the machine moves for the next part to move and so on.. like for
> every
> part of the machine the next part is one way for every way another
> part is.

> see how part of the machine that moves is for the next part to only
> be
> able to move one way? when you say a part of a machine is a connected
> condition to be able to move? a connected condition like for what
> matters one way is for what matters another way... like to see a
> whole
> machine is to say beginning and ending together as a connected
> condition, but to say a bunch inside connected to that as their own
> connected condition.- Hide quoted text -

> - Show quoted text -

see how you can move a part of the machine it is, and have the rest
of
the machine move? that's not to say making a machine move step by
step
in idea of how it is functional at working, but how a part of the
machine is in condition for the next part to be in condition. like,
it's to say the whole machine in condition where a part of the
machine
is changed in condition, and the rest of the machine is in condition
for where that part of the machine is at? it's not to say a machine
that moves step by step though, it's to say a machine that has a part
moved into another condition, and then the whole machine put into one
condition together like the next part is one way for the next part to
be one way and so on.

doesn't a machine have to be that way? where one part moves and then
the other part moves?
but see a machine this way.... a part together with a part.. where
one
part of the machine is one way for the next part to be one way... so
see a whole machine that way though... it's not like step by step a
machine that moves, it's like part for part matches together. so a
part of the machine is one way, but has many ways to be.. like a pair
that can move has many ways to move but goes back to the same way it
was.. like choose one of them but any of them that move together as
what moves, then it moved so they're together still to move again
another way but back to where it was. but this part is another part
if
you start somewhere else. so move the part that a pair that can move
is and find ones to move that are part of another part that moves
too,
but move this part and the other part will move differently, or is
moved, like the part to it and so on.

like.. a machine is where one part is to move any way, then it's for
the next part to be any way for that part, but it's to be a part one
way for the next part to be one way. but only one way can the next
part be, so on as the next parts.

because if a machine is connected together no matter what, even one
that works like a machine that can be any real machine that works..
then it's connected together in sense of one piece moves another
piece, and so on right? like if i move part of the machine, the move
the next part, this makes sense right?
but not to see the machine move step by step right? because look...
look at it be a real machine though. where it's one machine connected
together as one machine though... because it's one machine connected
together... because if part of the machine is one way, the other part
is another way. like to think a whole machine any way is to think one
side of the machine is always for the other side of the machine, you
can't be halfway about one side and not all the way about the other
side like if the machine is build solid where one side is the way for
the other side to be the way it is.

so it's one machine together like where it matters one side of the
machine to be like the other side of the machine... so make a machine
work step by step and see what it is that doesn't make sense, it's
seeing the other side of the machine not be there yet with how it's
connected together. it's like to do the whole machine at once to move
it a little because one move makes another and so on. so see one move
make another in a machine... but instead of seeing it as how the
machine works, see it as how one part of the machine moves for the
next part of the machine. that's not like how a machine works to run,
it's how a machine works being connected together.

Eek. (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 6 years ago | (#24260109)

I've been playing Pandemic 2 [crazymonkeygames.com] all night and this is really freaking me out.

I think I'm moving to Madagascar...

Re:Eek. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24260795)

I've been playing Pandemic 2 [crazymonkeygames.com] all night and this is really freaking me out.

I think I'm moving to Madagascar...

Nuh-uh. The port is closed.

Another method... (2, Informative)

longacre (1090157) | more than 6 years ago | (#24260219)

The New York City Dept of Health monitors sales records of certain medications gathered from drugstore chains to detect disease outbreaks and biological attacks.

Re:Another method... (1)

Hektor_Troy (262592) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262411)

The New York City Dept of Health monitors sales records [...] to detect [...] biological attacks.And just how many of those have they detected? Seriously, if you have to look at sales records to identify a biological attack, how do you disguingish it from a regular disease outbreak? Secondly, if that's the only way to identify it, it's not really that effective - roughly as effective as the terrorist plot to kill all Americans by having them die in car crashes. So far they're getting about 130 people a day that way.

Dupe (1)

Bazman (4849) | more than 6 years ago | (#24260301)

Another report of the same HealthMap thing was on /. not too long ago:

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/07/09/1424247 [slashdot.org]

and what I said then still stands - the plural of "anecdote" is not "data". I defy anyone to come up with useful statistical models and tests on actual disease incidence based on web-crawling for disease names.

But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24260811)

What if you're too sick to blog about it?

Hasn't this story been covered already? (1)

dr_canak (593415) | more than 6 years ago | (#24260889)

I believe we just saw this. A search on this site for the single word "disease" shows this link 3rd:

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/07/09/1424247 [slashdot.org]

No google foo required to find this dupe.

jeff

Hospital IT Dept Alert (1)

nx6310 (1150553) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261505)

I think the day has come where hospitals need to maintain reliable Blogs considering they have the resources to do so. If it proves efficient, outsourcing to small IT service providers to maintain these blogs/websites will also be good for businesses.

Calling bullshit... hello... bullshit do you hear? (4, Interesting)

denzacar (181829) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261581)

It is not that I don't like the idea but it is essentially flawed.

A) It still requires human input. No one reporting the disease does not mean that it is not there.
Looking at former Yugoslavia and seeing only 1 case of meningitis while here in Bosnia everyone knows about (and it is on TV, radio and in the papers) the brucellosis [wikipedia.org] epidemic that has been going on for months or even years maybe.

B) That input must be made over the internet.
Look at Africa. It is practically squeaky clean. There is one case diarrhea in the entire Botswana. And everyone is completely healthy up in the North.
Could it possibly be due to the lack of internet-based inputs instead of due to the lack of diseases?
Check out UK or the East Coast of USA. They are crawling with diseases.

C) It should preferably be in English. Can the crawler read any of these articles:

http://www.zzjzfbih.ba/content/view/66/13/ [zzjzfbih.ba]
http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,3259389,00.html?maca=bos-rss-bos-all-1475-rdf [dw-world.de]
http://www.slobodnadalmacija.hr/BiH/tabid/68/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/14733/Default.aspx [slobodnadalmacija.hr]
http://www.dnevniavaz.ba/dogadjaji/panorame/bruceloza-prepolovila-prodaju-livanjskog-sira- [dnevniavaz.ba]
http://www.blic.co.yu/repsrpska.php?id=44508 [blic.co.yu]

Basically, what they come to is that there is a SHITLOAD of cases of brucellosis among the various cattle in Bosnia.
And that it is going to stay that way for a long time, cause nobody is really doing anything about it.

It is a fine idea, but unless you have every square kilometer of Earth covered with internet access and people who will report it in a language that the crawler understands - it is beyond useless.
Even dangerous.
Zoom out over Asia and turn on the Google in Chinese under Feeds. China's disease count jumps from around 40 to around 140.

No. You can't fix all the problems by "putting it on the internet".

Re:Calling bullshit... hello... bullshit do you he (1)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 6 years ago | (#24267929)

Flawed doesn't mean it's a bad idea or shouldn't be done; much the opposite in fact.

A) It still requires human input. No one reporting the disease does not mean that it is not there.

If no one is reporting the disease, it doesn't matter whether you don't report it online or by ACME 15-second express to their doorstop - it's not being reported.

B) That input must be made over the internet.

Duh. Some places will clearly benefit more than others... so what? If I have the ability to increase the literacy rate in five nations, I'll do it even if I can't do it in all the rest yet.

C) It should preferably be in English.

Unavoidable. Except it's not too hard to write in an ability to pick up on any of a multitude of languages. Hell, just use Google's page translator for a fugly hack.

This isn't meant to solve all the problems, but I'm sorry - if implementing this concept means only one life is saved over the entire planet, it is entirely worthwhile. And if it increases reaction time to any single outbreak, it'll be irreplaceable. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and there is no harm in trying something simple and easy using technology we clearly already have.

Re:Calling bullshit... hello... bullshit do you he (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 6 years ago | (#24271405)

This isn't meant to solve all the problems, but I'm sorry - if implementing this concept means only one life is saved over the entire planet, it is entirely worthwhile. And if it increases reaction time to any single outbreak, it'll be irreplaceable.

No - it isn't.
Did you bother to read what I said at all?
Or look at the map they are presenting?

Example I made of China should point you out just how many cases are unseen if you miss a single language.
And Google still speaks only a handful of them - badly.

While the lack of internet infrastructure has just made Africa free of disease. WO-FUKIN-HOO!
US is choking with disease and epidemics but Africa is clean.

Disease control costs money and resources. Both human and material.
A tool like this is nothing more than a noise generator at this point. And a faulty one at that.
It will create requests to send in medical research teams to a bunch of restaurants on Manhattan cause someone had an upset stomach, but it will ignore almost entire continents because it does not speak their language or because they don't have "the internets".

Duh. Some places will clearly benefit more than others... so what? If I have the ability to increase the literacy rate in five nations, I'll do it even if I can't do it in all the rest yet.

Yeah... sure...
And if we had the ability to increase the size of tits in developed nations, who really cares about some Africans dieing of cholera, right?
Both of those things are a "doctor matter".

Epidemics are not about "one life is saved over the entire planet".
Epidemic means that it is a threat to a entire society of people. One life, or five or ten or even hundred can be meaningless in such situations.

Right now, this is a unreliable and therefor pointless and dangerous tool that can only increase the dispersion of available resources without actual benefit to anyone.
In 5-10 years, as Google ads more languages and actually learns to use properly the ones it lists now - maybe there will be SOME use for it.
Even so - it is still flawed unless you start feeding it medical records from every medical center and emergency room in the world.
But then - the privacy concerns raise its ugly head. So we will probably never see that part.
So, unless we all turn into compulsive hypochondriacs who blog all day about their diseases - there will be not be enough input even in developed nations.

And even in a world of compulsive hypochondriacs who have no privacy concerns - Africa and a great part of the rest of the world will remain out of the system because they lack the internet connection.
And compulsive hypochondriacs who blog all day about their diseases.

Re:Calling bullshit... hello... bullshit do you he (1)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 6 years ago | (#24271855)

While the lack of internet infrastructure has just made Africa free of disease.

Not in the least! I don't think anybody is suggesting closing up shop and making this the be all and end all of epidemiological tools. All it is is just another way of discovering or verifying an outbreak. You don't have to choose between tits and cholera; you're lucky enough to be able to get your tits as an extra bonus to halting the spread of cholera.

Re:Calling bullshit... hello... bullshit do you he (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 6 years ago | (#24279047)

Right now it is far less useful than for example googling for news about diseases.

For fuck's sake... look at the map. Half the diseases it lists are what could otherwise be described as "tummy aches". And most of them across US.
It does not discover or verify anything. It is only generating noise at one end and ignoring everything at the other.
It is a blind man holding an elephant's dick.

This is NOT for amateurs! (1)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262063)

From the FA: HealthMap isn't just for doctors, specialists and public health officials, however. If travelers are heading to Paraguay they can see if there is an instance of Yellow Fever, for instance, and get vaccinated before they leave.

Uh ... they better distinguish between the human-to-human diseases and the ones that are spread to humans from elsewhere. Yellow Fever, for instance, is always present in the jungle wildlife and only occasionally spreads to humans. I'd hate to have some unsuspecting tourist become a datapoint on the map in Paraguay. And just because Arizona has not reported any bubonic plague cases recently doesn't make it safe to play with the prairie dogs.

Web Crawler? (1)

Bwana Geek (1033040) | more than 6 years ago | (#24263061)

Did anybody else read the title of this story and wonder if Spider-Man was dabbling in epidemiology?

Biological Profiling (1)

Bones3D_mac (324952) | more than 6 years ago | (#24265197)

Here's one to mull over...

Let's say for a moment that you come home after a long day and start to notice you have a bit of a cough, a stomach ache or even joint/muscle pain. You then hop onto your computer and post an innocent message to either a web forum you visit regularly or to a personal blog that you aren't feeling well with a brief description of what's bothering you.

Now, let's say this is a common habit you have where you make such posts every few days, particularly with days you don't feel well.

What's to stop someone with a vested interest in knowing your baseline health cycle started archiving this information? Depending on the circumstances and who is given access to this information, it could be quite easy for someone to profit directly off of your well-being.

If you have a habit of complaining about your health online on a regular basis, your little cries for sympathy could be turned against you should someone like your insurance company decide to use such a system to secretly track you in this manner. And, combined with the near free-reign various industries now have to track your daily activity without notifying you first, they could probably get away with such tactics quite easily.

Search Engine Info, Too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24268261)

I wonder if search engine requests could be accumulated in a similar useful way...

Depends on good human doctors (1)

jselani (985582) | more than 6 years ago | (#24272245)

While it is nice to tout a system that "picks up" disease outbreaks "some of them before WHO or CDC", it is important to remember that:

- this system does not DETECT outbreaks (nor does it claim to): it presents a map of already reported outbreaks

- no disease outbreak EVER ever been initially detected by an automated system before an alert doctor or other healthcare provider: a human has ALWAYS been the "sensor" that detects disease outbreaks on the ground.

- the WHO and the CDC are not SUPPOSED to identify every disease outbreak in the world, just like a building maintenance staff isn't supposed to identify every coffee spill in the building: most coffee spills can be handled locally, and the maintenance staff never needs to be notified at all. Likewise with disease outbreaks.

It is very interesting, and sometimes useful in generating hypotheses, to view a map of news coverage of outbreaks, but a system like this can never, ever take the place of alert clinicians who, with brain computing power that dwarfs the fastest processor Google can field, are able to spot trends and unusual cases better than any computerized system.

Better to also spend money improving the education and capabilities of those clinicians, and improving the systems by which they can notify a larger world about their unusual cases -- maybe those notifications could feed into a system like the one described and finally give it the ability to truly detect outbreaks.

Joel Selanikio, MD
DataDyne.org
Washington, DC

False positives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24315819)

One thing that the article should mention, but doesn't, is the system's false positive rate.

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